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DEQ proposing to close book on oil spill
By JAYSON JACOBY
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is not planning to take any further action related to an accidental spill of about 80 gallons of home heating oil in a Baker City backyard in January 2011.
Although tests of soil and groundwater samples in 2011 and in February of 2012 showed that the diesel oil had spread an unknown distance from the spill site at 3080 Second St., the contamination was not at levels that pose a significant health risk to the public, according to DEQ.
And those levels have decreased substantially since the spill happened, said Katie Robertson, a cleanup project manager at the DEQ’s Pendleton office.
A key factor is that all homes in that north Baker City neighborhood are connected to the city’s water system and don’t rely on well water for drinking, Robertson said.
The heating oil spill had no effect on the city’s water system.
The only well in the area that is used — for irrigating landscaping, not drinking — did not contain detectable levels of diesel when a water sample was tested in October 2011.
The DEQ’s decision is not final.
The agency will accept comments from the public about its proposal through 5 p.m. on May 31. The public can comment by:
• Phoning Robertson at 541-278-4620.
• Mailing written comments to the DEQ at 700 S.E. Emigrant, Suite 330, Pendleton, OR 97801.
• Faxing written comments to 541-278-0168.
The accident happened when a new delivery driver for Black Distributing Inc. in Baker City pumped heating oil into a 2-inch-diameter galvanized steel pipe at Robert and Leslie Harrison’s home.
The pipe was connected to a well rather than the heating oil storage tank.
Robertson said the well pipe was almost identical to the standard pipe used for fuel tanks, so the mistake wasn’t surprising.
Robert Harrison discovered the driver’s error and stopped the delivery after approximately 80 gallons of diesel had been pumped into the well.
Robertson said Black Distributing has taken full responsibility for the spill. The company’s insurance has covered cleanup costs, which had totaled about $20,000, owner Shannon Black said in an interview in February 2012.
More information about the incident is available at the DEQ’s web site.
Go to www.deq.state.or.us/lq/ecsi/ecsi.htm. Click on “search complete ESCI database,” then enter 5489 in the Site ID box.